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article imageReview: ‘Personal Shopper’ is Kristen Stewart’s best thus far Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 25, 2017 in Entertainment
Kristen Stewart delivers a career-best performance in Olivier Assayas’ ‘Personal Shopper’, which is part ghost story, part mystery thriller.
Living one’s life on what feels like borrowed time and spending it looking for something doesn’t make for much of a life. The former causes a person to feel like anything they might try to do of significance will ultimately be pointless, while the latter keeps them preoccupied and consequently distracted from ever trying. The result is constant uncertainty and listlessness. Thus in Personal Shopper, the protagonist is on an aimless path that is hijacked by a self-serving force.
After Maureen’s (Kristen Stewart) brother passed away in Paris, she decided not to leave. The fraternal twins suffer from the same, potentially fatal heart anomaly and they agreed to contact the surviving sibling “from the other side.” Determined to receive her brother’s message, she spends sleepless nights in his empty house. However, her openness makes her somewhat of a beacon for spirits — just not necessarily her brother’s. Maureen spends her days as a personal shopper for a demanding model with strict rules regarding their relationship. Determined not to overstimulate her heart, Maureen often seems subdued even though she’s making great efforts to control her emotions and impulses. A stranger recognizes this restraint and sees it as an opportunity to push her limits — a game in which she reluctantly partakes.
The underlying narrative is that of a ghost story. Maureen has several encounters throughout the film, both with fully manifested spirits and others communicating via sound or moving objects. Their existence cannot be denied within the context of the film as she is clearly interacting with some sort of presence, seen or unseen. But in spite of her obvious hope and desperation, their connection to her brother is questionable if not entirely negated. The immediate fear and curiosity she experiences are fascinating, but they’re often followed by utter and heartbreaking disappointment.
Surprisingly, these are not the most bizarre aspects of the film. Rather, watching Maureen clothe and accessorize her employer while trying to maintain tenuous relationships with the sometimes apprehensive suppliers is uncanny. Maureen relates her tastes, and anticipates her needs and desires when picking up the pieces and selecting others. Yet, in spite of being nearly the exact same size, she’s forbidden from trying on any part of the outfit — a temptation she fights daily.
And it’s this longing that allows Maureen to be prey for a mystery texter that pokes at all the feelings and urges she instinctually suppresses. It creates a third layer for the movie that ultimately becomes the most dangerous and interesting, forcing her to confront her life’s choices thus far and decide what she wants for the future. Though the conclusion demonstrates even committing to something doesn’t mean you regain complete control.
This film reunites Stewart with Clouds of Sils Maria writer/director Olivier Assayas. Previously, she had delivered a stellar performance as a supporting character in an intelligent, female-led, self-reflexive picture. Now Stewart is at the centre of the narrative, virtually carrying the movie alone and even further demonstrating her talent for complex, introverted characters on the periphery of celebrity. Whether she can effectively portray characters outside of this sullen box is still unclear, but she’s definitely adept at this personality-type.
Director: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger and Sigrid Bouaziz
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